Mr. Nelson Mandela
A shining light for the world not only to see but to feel. A light unto our hearts that would spill a teacher that walks like a preacher, a man that showed me how to stand, fly with the angels, my eyes now untangles a man that taught by example, a heart I was blessed to sample. – Ronnie Willis – A Great Spirit and a Beautiful Soul
I have always been moved by dance since I was about three years old. I would dance for my family at family functions and win kiddy cabarets all the time. When I was about three years old my aunt Brenda Willis told me about the high school of the performing arts name Duke Ellington High. My mother found out that I needed some training so she enrolled me in a dance school by the name of the Davis Center here in Washington D.C. I was well trained there and once I auditioned for Duke Ellington my training went even farther. While at Duke, Denise Jefferson who was a featured dancer of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and now the Chairperson of his school in N.Y.C. had come to Duke to audition us for a scholarship to attend the school. I was awarded a scholarship there and I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy! New York was just so exciting to me. It was a lot of hard work from about 8:30 am to 11 pm every day but it made me such a strong dancer. I had the great pleasure of working with Mr. Ailey himself and meeting Gregory Hines there as well. During my second year there I realized that concert dance was not for me but it had definitely made me a better dancer. So I went into Denise Jefferson’s office I told her that I was leaving the school to pursue my career in dance. She offered me a professional dance position in Alvin Ailey’s second or junior company but I respectfully turned the position down. I then started to audition in New York for some of the stage shows there. Once I even auditioned for Cats and I got a callback. Once at the call back I had to sing.
The Director said to me you are a great dancer but you don’t sing that well at all. Now, this could have broken my spirit but I knew deep inside me there was a way for me to do what I loved in this business. So I kept my head up and I persevered. I went back home to Washington D.C. and got a call to audition for this new musical that I didn’t have to sing for. It was entitled “Black and Blue” and starring the Weather Girls or the Two Tons of Fun, they had that hit song “It’s Raining Men” after the audition I went back to Washington D.C. and about a week later I got the call that I had booked my first professional gig! When I heard that we would be opening up in Europe in Amsterdam I was ecstatic! I then started to dance & choreograph in the film industry in Los Angels and I loved it so much! I remember when I started working with Michael Jackson, which was the most memorable time in my life. This was my number one dream and it had come true, but what I learned most of all from that experience is that you have to have a dream beyond your biggest dream. I say this because once I had reached that goal I felt there was nothing else for me to reach for.
Just recently Mr. Nelson Mandela had passed away. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nelson Mandela but I did have the great pleasure and opportunity to meet his Daughters and their families once when I was in South Africa with Sisqo. It was just that, a great pleasure. Though I have never met him, I could always feel his great spirit and his beautiful soul. I have cried so much this past week. I don’t think I have ever cried so much for someone I have never met. You notice I said met but I know his heart and his spirit. Rest in peace Mr. Mandela and thank you for the lessons you have taught me. Love one another no matter the race, color of skin or religion. Always fight for what is right. Mr. Mandela showed us all how to gracefully forgive and how to love your enemies and / or oppressors. He also showed me how to keep your head up high even when someone is pushing it down. I love this Great Spirit and he is sorely missed, but I’m sure God has a great task for him next to him.